Jonas Scholars Attend the 2017 AACN Student Policy Summit (Part One)

Several Jonas Scholars were among the 200 nursing students who attended the eighth annual American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) Student Policy Summit, held in Washington, DC, from March 19-21, 2017. The summit offered program sessions focused on the federal policy process and nursing’s role in professional advocacy.  We spoke with a few attendees after the summit and will share their experiences over the next few weeks. First, we will hear from Jonas Scholars representing Saint Louis University and Baylor University.

Kristin Keller and Sarah Oerther, Jonas Nurse Leader Scholars who are currently enrolled as PhD students at the School of Nursing, Saint Louis University, shared their highlights from the conference:

“During this three-day summit, we had the opportunity to attend sessions on nursing’s role in professional advocacy and on the federal policy process.

The first day, keynote speaker Linda McConnell, MSN, RN, NEA-BC, FACHE inspired us with her story about how she became engaged in nursing policy leadership. Lauren Inouye, MPP, RN assisted us in understanding that ‘nurses advocate first and foremost on behalf of their patients. The opportunity to convene in our nation’s capital and speak with one collective voice at the Student Policy Summit shows the power and unity of today’s students and tomorrow’s leaders.’

On the second day of the policy forum, Dean Teri Murray, PhD, APHN-BC, RN, FAAN from Saint Louis University facilitated introductions of the Deans and students from Missouri on our visit to Capitol Hill. We had the opportunity to advocate for the entire nursing profession, including the AACN, as we met with the legislative staff of Missouri Senators Claire McCaskill and Roy Blunt. We advocated for the reauthorization of Title VIII which provides scholarships for nursing students. We spent the evening networking during a Congressional reception on Capitol Hill.

Going to Capitol Hill was a once in a lifetime experience that we will treasure forever. To be able to advocate for the nursing profession as representatives of Missouri with colleagues and Dean Murray was one of the most humbling and honorable experiences in which either of us have had the opportunity to participate. We networked with and were mentored by some of the most intelligent, selfless and confident nurses and leaders from around the country. The experience of learning about policy and politics with nursing students from other schools introduced us to the importance of advocacy – both for our patients and for our profession. We had the opportunity to meet nurses and members of Congress who are advocates of the nursing profession. We learned from Suzanne Miyamoto PhD, RN, FAAN: ‘Nurses are non-partisan because everyone gets sick. We may have different solutions but our voices matter.’

We left the summit feeling empowered with new knowledge and committed to fulfilling our obligations as advocates for the profession of nursing. Looking towards the future, we know that we now possess the skills to be at the table in Washington, D.C. so that we will have a larger voice in how health policy effects nursing practice.”

We also spoke with Lindsey Camp, Midwifery DNP candidate at Baylor University, on her experience advocating with fellow nurses.

“The SPS was a great opportunity to learn, lead, and serve.  We learned so much from the distinguished speakers at the conference including nurses serving at some of the highest levels in our nation’s government. It was truly inspirational and a great learning experience. Furthermore, we were able to put what we learned about policy into practice by speaking with our Senators and Representatives about the importance of funding for nursing education, research, and practice. With such a great representation, I think the AACN nursing voice made a great impact on Capitol Hill that day (see picture), and we will continue to see the effects of this in the future.

(Pictured above: (L) Participants at Capitol Hill; (R) Lindsey Camp)

It was evident that nurses are highly regarded by the influential leaders of Washington. At the end of the day, their presence at our nursing reception was inspirational to us all that what we are doing as nurses, whether it is at the bedside or as an advocate at the national level, is highly regarded by those serving in public office. I am excited to use what I learned at SPS to encourage others to be mindful of the impact of national and state policies on our patients and everyday nursing practice. It was a great learning experience and we also enjoyed beautiful Washington.